A well-written, fast-paced, and thoughtful adventure.

THE PROTO PROJECT

When a boy’s scientist mother is kidnapped, he tries to rescue her with the help of her greatest invention in this middle-grade novel.

Although Jason Pascal, 12, might be expected to know something about Recode Global, where his mother, Dr. Shannon Pascal, is a top scientist, the site is highly defended, demanding strict confidentiality agreements from its employees. So, along with everyone else on the Buttonwood Middle School field trip, Jason will be going through the secretive company’s doors for the first time. After Shannon’s presentation on how humans and artificial intelligence can be partners, she shows Jason her lab and Proto, the wristwatch-sized prototype AI she’s developing, whose “main governing principle is to work with humanity, not against it.” This is reassuring—because Proto hitches a ride out of the lab with Jason and becomes very useful indeed when it becomes evident that Shannon has been kidnapped. Proto helps Jason and his friend Maya Mateo to investigate, a search that leads them to a nefarious toy factory where a supervillain has big plans. With a little help from his friends, can Jason save his mother and the future of AI? Johnson (Code 7, 2017) offers a well-calculated balance of suspense and humor for middle school readers, and Jason and Maya make a good pair. They bond first over a mutual interest in bicycles and recording their tricks and then through their shared courage. Maya’s “DronePro” becomes something of a counterpart to Proto. Proto is often drolly amusing, as when he distracts barking dogs by beaming images of “tiny sweaters, booties, and blingy collars,” explaining that “my research indicates Chihuahuas have incredible fashion sense.” Action sequences are exciting and dramatic. The novel also provides food for thought in considering how AI could help or hurt humanity. Although the villains are over the top, they do give voice to some of the forces that might want to use AI for selfish, grandiose reasons.

A well-written, fast-paced, and thoughtful adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-940556-07-9

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Candy Wrapper

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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